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Deal paves way for local edible bird’s nests to fly to China

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Workers clean edible bird’s nests in the capital’s Tuol Kork district. Heng Chivoan

Deal paves way for local edible bird’s nests to fly to China

The General Directorate of Trade Promotion (GDTP) and another institution under the Cambodian commerce ministry – based in Xiamen city of China’s Fujian province – have entered into a partnership to pave the way for the export of locally-produced edible bird’s nest products to China “in the near future”.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to this effect by the GDTP and Cambodia (Xiamen) Commercial Center Co Ltd (KHCC-XM) – the Cambodia Commercial Center’s representative arm in the southeastern coastal Chinese city – at the commerce ministry on October 27, according to a statement issued by the ministry.

The deal comes 80 days after the KHCC-XM signed a similar MoU with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Edible bird’s nest is generally made from the dried saliva of Southeast Asia’s white-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus), and China is the largest market for the commodity.

Traditionally, the processed swiftlet nest is double boiled with rock sugar to make a delicacy known as “bird’s nest soup”, which is rich in nutrients and has a host of claimed health benefits, such as boosting a person’s immune system, blood circulation, metabolism, energy levels and libido.

The October 27 signing ceremony was also attended by officials and representatives of the commerce and agriculture ministries and the taxation and customs general departments, as well as associations, federations and business involved in the edible bird’s nest supply chain, the statement said.

GDTP director-general Kao Kosal lauded the latest MoU, commenting that it would fast-track the export of Cambodian edible bird’s nest to China.

Speaking in the statement, he said that the MoU covers: securing manufacturing and supply partners; support for the establishment of a processing factory; opening Sino-Cambodian trade channels; and the organisation of business forums, trade meetings, trade fairs and similar events to strengthen business networks; among other things.

KHCC-XM chief Zeng Youmin underlined that his centre aims to promote Sino-Cambodian cooperation and lend a hand to efforts towards the export of Cambodian edible bird’s nest to China, and affirmed that it has “worked together [with the GDTP] to review the MoU in detail”, according to the statement.

Commerce ministry secretary of state Chhuon Dara, who presided over the event, hailed the MoU and its initiatives as “good news” and a “great opportunity” for the Cambodian trade community.

“The Ministry of Commerce supports the [KHCC-XM’s] efforts in planning for the prompt export of Cambodian edible bird’s nests to China, the world’s most populous market.

“Hopefully, after this memorandum enters into force following the signing, Cambodian edible bird’s nests will be able to fly in large volumes into the Chinese market in the near future, greatly benefiting the Cambodian private sector in the field,” the statement quoted him as saying.

The statement did not provide a possible timeframe for the beginning of Cambodian edible bird’s nest exports to China, nor did it mention whether the commodity may be able to be exported in raw or semi-processed form.

In an interview with The Post in August, Cambodia Swiftlet Federation (“CSF”) president Nang Sothy claimed that the official direct export of edible bird’s nests to China will bring lots of positive effects to the Kingdom, including job creation, greater income growth and bigger markets, due to the prevalent penchant for bird’s nest products among Chinese consumers.

He also revealed that unofficial bird’s nest exports from Cambodia to China are to the tune of “several tonnes” each year, adding that the Kingdom also ships the commodity to Europe, Japan, the US and other destinations.

Sothy claims that 100-200 new man-made swiftlet homes may be built each year. He also reported that, on the international market, uncleaned bird’s nests cost an average of $550-750 per kilogramme while cleaned ones cost $1,500-3,500, depending on its size and quality.

Citing data from the ministry’s Forestry Administration, the General Directorate of Agriculture reported that there were 872 swiftlet homes in Cambodia in 2020, each on average able to produce between one and 1.5 tonnes of edible bird’s nests per month.


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